ILLINOIS STATE LIBRARY
Lesson 12 - Learning Styles
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Margaret was asked to tutor two adult learners who worked in very different ways. Matthew liked to sit until he completed a task. Elaine needed to get up, walk around and return to the task. Margaret was not sure how to handle these differences so that each student learned in the most effective manner. She met with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator to get some advice.
Questions for consideration as you work through this lesson
How do you work with learners who have different styles? How do you adapt tutoring so that your tutoring meets the learning styles of the learners?
As a potential tutor, you will want to understand the different learning styles of the adult learners you tutor. One way to increase your own understanding is to discover your own learning style. Check with your Volunteer Tutor Coordinator to see if there is a checklist they prefer.
A Learning Styles chart, adapted from Accelerated Learning, by Colin Rose(1987), is available online. It can help you identify your learning style by the ways in which you choose to use information. This chart may also give you clues on how learning styles might impact instruction.
Then, meet your adult learners and identify his or her learning style and adapt your tutoring to that style. Be aware that any adult may have more than one learning style. Therefore, varying your instruction to include appeals to a variety of senses is a good idea.
To be an effective tutor, you will need to work closely with the Volunteer Tutor Coordinator and with the adult learner. The adult learner should experience success while being challenged to improve his or her skills.
Each individual processes information in a distinct and unique way. We all use all of our senses to learn, but some people depend more on one element of their senses. Some people rely primarily on sight and are called visual learners. Some people rely primarily on hearing and are called auditory learners. Some people, kinesthetic or tactile learners, rely primarily on touch and movement. These individual inclinations are referred to as individual learning styles. Learning styles are the preferred ways by which people learn.
Howard Gardner of Harvard first identified various learning styles that he calls "multiple intelligences." His theory is linked to recent cognitive research. The theory is important to adult literacy because it emphasizes that people learn in different ways. More on Garnder's theory is available online.
For the purposes of this tutor training, we will simplify this theory.
Instructional Impact of Learning Styles
As a literacy tutor, you will want to adapt both your instructional methods and the materials you use to meet the learner's needs. In previous sections, you have learned that this adaptation may be needed to meet a learner's goals or to meet a learner's current skill level. In this section on learning styles, we want you to note that your learner may have a style that suits him or her best. You will want to find out what their style is and use the methods and materials that suit that style.
Adapting materials and methods to a learning style means that you may have to read aloud if your learner is an auditory person or use story mapping if they are visual learners. Understanding the learner's style of processing information and developing lessons that meet these needs is a crucial component of successful tutoring. Adapting instructional materials to include all three styles creates the optimal learning environment.